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Flames focused on a better start, faster tempo and more aggressive approach to Game 3 against Avs

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The Flames vow to be better.

"I think we learned a little bit of a lesson last night," admitted Sam Bennett during a media availability before the team departed for Denver and Games 3 and 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Avalanche.

"We're not going to be sitting back anymore, I can tell you that for sure.

"We let them take it to us right from the start" - a 3-2 OT loss Saturday night. "They were faster, more physical.

"We can't let them dictate the play.

"We have to take it to them."

To regain the lead in the series and re-take home-ice advantage, the Flames will need to find a way to muffle Colorado's top guns, in particular Nathan MacKinnon, the commanding OT hero of Game Two.

"He's a world-class player,'' praised Bennett. "One of the fastest guys in the league. We know how good he is, what he's capable of.
"Sometimes you've just got to tip your hat but we're definitely aware."

Shifted to the minutes-munching defence unit alongside Mark Giordano, rookie Rasmus Andersson logged 21:36 and should the pairings remain the same Monday at the Pepsi Centre, is certain to see a fair bit of MacKinnon and Co.

"Obviously, they're skilled, fast players,'' said Anderson, who opened the scoring in Game Two with his first NHL playoff goal. "You've got to stay on the inside of them, be physical when you get the chance.

"I mean, I've played against top guys before. It's nothing new, really."


Video: "We have to do a better job"


Switching venues, of course, only compounds the MacKinnon issue with Colorado owning last change and the chance to keep their top attacking trio away from Calgary's shutdown 3M Line more than was possible when Bill Peters had the match-up hammer at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"We're not going to be able to," conceded the Flames' coach of his matching preference. "We'd be better off just trying to get everyone involved in the game and contributing in a positive fashion.

"They played a lot of time in the offensive zone. It's easy to play in the offensive zone. In the D-zone it's heavier lifting, harder work, so we've got to make sure if they're going to play big minutes they've got to spend some time in their own zone.

"It's a transition game, right? You're transitioning all the time, continually, for 60, 65, 70 minutes, whatever it was, minutes. Offence to defence, defence to offence.

"That's the art of playing fast. They were quicker. That's the way the game works."

As the scene shifts to Denver, it's the Flames now required to reignite energy and belief, just as it had been Colorado's after the opener.

"You get pretty pumped up when you win the first game," acknowledged centre Mikael Backlund. "Then last night was pretty disappointing. But new day today, new day tomorrow.

"Starting with myself, I felt as a team we weren't good enough (in Game Two). I thought we made them better than they are. We weren't nearly as good as we can be and that's why they looked better than us.

"They had a little more bite to their game.

"So we're back at even and just have to go from there.

"We want to win every game but we didn't expect to. We know it's a tough task.

"They came out with a big push and I didn't think we did a great job of pushing back. Tomorrow we have to come out a lot harder and be more aggressive right from the start."


Video: "New day tomorrow ... we're back to even"


A brighter beginning and more of a focus on containing the Avs' marquee men to complement what has been stellar goaltending from Mike Smith are the talking points as Game Three beckons.

"We got Game One, and they came back with more desperation than we had,'' said Peters in summation. "Now we've got to be the desperate team coming off a loss."

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